|01.16.15 at 7:22 pm ET|
FOXBORO — The 12 regular-season wins. Their sixth straight AFC East title. Overcoming a 2-2 start to win their next seven games. Coming back from two, 14-point deficits in the divisional round against the Ravens. None of that matters come Sunday night for the Patriots.
Sunday’s AFC championship game against the Colts is a one-game season.
“Everybody is putting everything they’ve got into it,” coach Bill Belichick said Friday. “It’s a one-game season. Nothing to save it for, so I think everybody is trying as hard as they can.”
With the stakes so high — being win or go home — it is obviously different than a regular-season week. So, should the players have more urgency, or prepare like it is any other game. Belichick says he wants a little of both.
“I think it’s actually a combination of both of them,” Belichick said. “We’ve got a good football team. We’ve won a lot of games. We must be doing something right, so we want to keep doing that. At the same time, each game you play at this time of year is more important. We’ve been saying that for the last month or month-and-a-half or whatever it’s been. As they ramp up, we’re closer and closer to the finish line.
“It’s a one-week season right now, so there’s nothing to save it for. Put everything you’ve got into it, so there’s definitely more urgency. But I don’t think you want to get too far away from doing the things that you’ve been successful doing. So, there’s a little bit of balance there.”
The Patriots are playing in their fourth straight AFC title game, their ninth in 14 years and their 10th AFC championship game since 1996. For Belichick, this is his ninth as coach of the Patriots. Belichick acknowledges a lot goes into it, with preparation starting all the way back during training camp.
“I mean, it’s what you work all year for,” said Belichick. “This is what we’ve worked for since basically a year ago this time last year ‘ myself and everybody who is a part of the organization ‘ is to play in this game. It’s a great opportunity, but it’s a great challenge. We’re playing the best team we’ve played all year. We’re going to have to play and coach our best football.
“But it’s what you live for. It’s what you want to do. It’s where you want to be. It’s a great challenge, but it’s a great opportunity, so we’re all looking forward to it, and we know we’ll have to be at our best.”
|01.16.15 at 4:24 pm ET|
FOXBORO — After not practicing all week, it is not surprising that the Patriots have ruled rookie center Bryan Stork out for Sunday’s AFC championship game against the Colts at Gillette Stadium.
Stork suffered a knee injury in last Saturday’s win and hasn’t been spotted in the locker room during any of the media availability periods this week. The Patriots will have to do some shuffling up front, as it is likely Ryan Wendell will slide to center, so they will need a starting right guard. Josh Kline (who played last week once Stork was injured), Cameron Fleming and Marcus Cannon are all candidates.
The Patriots have listed all players who practiced this week on a limited basis as probable. Those are: Brandon Browner (knee), Dont’a Hightower (shoulder), Chris Jones (elbow) and Brandon LaFell (shoulder/toe).
Tom Brady (ankle), who was a full participant in practice all week, is listed as probable.
Here is the complete injury report:
C Bryan Stork (knee), did not practice
QB Tom Brady (ankle), full
CB Brandon Browner (knee), limited
LB Dont’a Hightower (shoulder), limited
DT Chris Jones (elbow), limited
WR Brandon LaFell (shoulder/toe), limited
|01.16.15 at 3:06 pm ET|
FOXBORO — The Patriots have named the three most recent inductees to the Patriots’ Hall of Fame as honorary captains for Sunday’s AFC championship game at Gillette Stadium against the Colts.
Ty Law, Tedy Bruschi and Troy Brown will be honorary captains for the game. All three are three-time Super Bowl champions. The Patriots are playing in their fourth straight conference championship, their ninth in 14 years and their 10th AFC championship game since 1996.
“It is an honor to play in Sunday’s AFC championship game in front of our home crowd,” said Patriots Chairman and CEO Robert Kraft in a press release. “We love that we are able to include three of our franchise’s most popular players in the pregame ceremonies. I think our fans will really enjoy expressing their appreciation for all the success those three players represent. I am so glad they could each be here to help us in yet another quest to win a championship.”
For more Patriots news, visit weei.com/patriots.
|01.16.15 at 1:54 pm ET|
FOXBORO — Patriots tight Rob Gronkowski had a spectacular 2014 season.
A few weeks back he was named an All-Pro and now he can add another award to his list. Gronkowski was named as the Pro Football Writers of America’s Comeback Player of the Year on Friday.
The tight end missed the final three regular-season games last year and the postseason after tearing his ACL on Dec. 8 against the Browns. Gronkowski didn’t miss anytime this season because of the injury, as he was active Week 1 against the Dolphins. He played 15-of-16 games this season, as he missed the regular-season finale, but he was a healthy scratch in that game to preserve his health for the playoffs.
Gronkowski finished the year with 82 catches for 1,124 yards and 12 touchdowns. Those were the second-best numbers of his career, as he only put up higher numbers in 2011, the last time he played more than 11 games in a season.
For more Patriots news, visit weei.com/patriots.
|01.16.15 at 1:51 pm ET|
ESPN’s Adam Schefter made his weekly appearance on Middays with MFB on Friday to talk about the AFC championship game Sunday as well as other news around the NFL. To hear the interview, go to the MFB audio on demand page.
Last week, Schefter made the prediction that the Patriots would end Baltimore’s season handily. And while the Ravens are not taking part in the conference championship, New England certainly struggled in keeping them from moving on.
“When they fell down 14-0 and then 28-14, I thought to myself, this is exactly the type of situation that this team typically has not responded very well to,” Schefter said. “This is not the team, the Baltimore Ravens, that you want to fall behind 14 points against. And I thought to myself, this is a recipe for disaster, and the fact that they were able to overcome that is a tribute to those guys. Unlikely, improbably, and impressive, all at once.”
This week, his prediction isn’t as confident, and it’s because of a certain young quarterback.
“What concerns me, and what would concern me if I were a Patriot fan would be that Andrew Luck, at some point, is going to have one of these signature games that elevates him,” he said. “He’s already there, we know he’s the best young quarterback in football, though some might say it’s Russell Wilson, but he’s going to have one of these signature games that elevates him from being talked about as one of the best quarterbacks in the game to just putting him into that elite category for good going forward.”
Beating an elite quarterback like Peyton Manning in his own barn last Sunday could have constituted as Luck’s breakthrough game, but not for Schefter. Denver’s struggles throughout the game did not lend themselves to that particular narrative for him. Instead, he’s looking to this week as a potential jumping-off point for Luck’s entry into the upper echelon of quarterbacks.
“Luck plays so well, plays one of these games where he’s out of his head and just raises the level of performance of his whole team to where he can carry them and will them to victory, and he’s good enough to do it,” Schefter said.
And Schefter noted that the New England defense is due for a good game, what with the trouble it had against Baltimore, but it’s only a matter of time before Luck breaks through, and that makes him nervous.
“[The Colts have] been trending in the right way, they’ve been getting better, they’ve been building,” he said. “At some point, [Luck’s] going to go through that glass ceiling, and that’s it. He’s going to be part of the elite quarterback conversation for good going forward.”
|01.16.15 at 1:42 pm ET|
FOXBORO — The Patriots are asking fans looking to purchase tickets for Sunday’s AFC championship off a secondary market to be extremely diligent and careful about their purchases.
The warning comes after a Thursday posting on Craigslist promoting the sale of AFC championship game tickets.
An individual who purchased the tickets realized the tickets were counterfeit and called the police. An arrest was made in Somerville of four individuals from New York who had been selling in the Saugus, Billerica and Somerville areas. An inset image shows an example of counterfeit tickets.
“We are cautioning fans in the greater Boston area to beware of secondary market purchases of Patriots tickets for this weekend’s game. The only verified sellers of Patriots tickets are the Patriots ticket office and Ticketmaster,” the team said in a statement.
Later Friday, the Patriots issued the release from the Somerville (Mass.) and Billerica Police departments, detailing the arrests, with accompanying mug shots.
On Thursday, January 15, 2015, Somerville Police received a call from Billerica Police relating that a Billerica resident had reported that he had bought counterfeit Patriots tickets (for the AFC championship game on 1/17/15) from a person via Craigslist. This transaction had taken place at the Holiday Inn, Somerville, earlier in the day. He had paid $900 for the four counterfeit tickets. Read the rest of this entry »
|01.16.15 at 1:37 pm ET|
FOXBORO — A lot has changed for Jonas Gray since his breakout performance the last time the Patriots played the Colts on Nov. 16.
Gray ran all over the Colts defense for 201 yards and four touchdowns in the Patriots’ 42-20 win, but since he has been slowed by an ankle injury in Week 16’s win over the Jets and has played in in four games since the Nov. 16 game totaling just 80 yards on 20 carries and a touchdown.
Gray missed last weekend’s divisional round game with the Ravens, as he was listed as being probable on the injury report.
“It would mean a lot, man,” Gray said in the locker room Friday of getting the chance to get carries in Sunday’s game. “Honestly, it would mean a lot. I am excited and I hopefully I will have an opportunity. I am just waiting and see what happens.”
As for missing last Saturday’s game, Gray said it was up to coach Bill Belichick.
“I’m not really sure,” said Gray. “I am not really sure why I was inactive. I pretty much go along with whatever Bill [Belichick] wants me to do. Whatever he thinks is best for the team he is going to do. We all believe in his approach and it’s worked.”
The Colts have been vulnerable against the run, particularly of late as they have allowed 100 yards or more on the ground in five of their last six games. The Patriots totaled 244 yards rushing in that Nov. 16 meeting, which was a season-high allowed for the Colts defense and season-high for the Patriots.
Gray said that game doesn’t mean nothing now.
“I don’t think so,” he said. “That was a long time ago. It’s a new Colts team so I have a new mindset of how to approach it. I am confident in what I can do and my abilities, but not confident about what I did last game.”
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